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Friday, 5 August 2022

Reviews: H.E.A.T, Hell Fire, Warwolf, Circle Creek (Reviews By Richard Oliver & Matt Bladen)

H.E.A.T. - Force Majeure (earMusic) [Richard Oliver]

Sweden has been a hotbed for rock and metal acts for several decades with many sounds, scenes and movements within the realm of rock and metal music developing in Sweden and one sound the country's bands seem to excel in a classic hard rock and AOR sound. One band who have been a mainstay in the Swedish melodic hard rock movement is H.E.A.T. who are releasing their seventh album Force Majeure. Force Majeure is quite an important album for H.E.A.T. and especially for older fans of the band as it sees the bands original vocalist Kenny Leckremo return to the microphone last appearing on the second album Freedom Rock in 2010. 

The return of Kenny seems to have invigorated the band as the music on Force Majeure is punchy and energetic and it sounds like the band were having an absolute blast writing and recording this album. H.E.A.T. aren’t as sweet and sugary as many AOR bands with the guitars up front and centre dishing out tasty and sometimes heavy riffs and slick solos backed up by a powerful rhythm section who play with a ton of force and energy. Of course though this is AOR so there are stadium sized choruses, hooks big enough to scoop up a city and gargantuan melodies galore. Songs such as Back To The Rhythm, Nationwide, Hollywood, Not For Sale and Hold Your Fire are pure fist pumping and euphoric melodic hard rock goodness. You get the obligatory power ballad with One Of Us but this is decent enough and not so sugary that it rots your teeth. Paramount is a big of an unusual song opening with a regal fanfare and going into quite a pompous and overblown anthem which is different but maybe not good different in comparison to the rest of the album. 

 Another standout is the full throttle of Demon Eyes which is almost H.E.A.T. doing power metal and is an absolute banger of a tune. I’m not overly familiar with the H.E.A.T. back catalogue so can’t really say how Force Majeure stands up to the albums that have come before it but what I will say is this an absolutely brilliant bit of melodic hard rock. It is melodic and catchy enough for those who want those big hooks and massive choruses but it is also heavy and rocking enough for those who want to bang their head and throw their fist into the air. It is the best of both worlds and it will definitely have me checking out the older H.E.A.T. albums. 8/10

Hell Fire - Reckoning (RidingEasy Records) [Richard Oliver]

Reckoning is the fourth album from San Francisco heavy metallers Hell Fire. They have become an established Bay Area band since their formation in 2010 establishing a sound that mixes Bay Area thrash and traditional heavy metal. The album was written by the band during the pandemic allowing them the time to iron out every detail and nuance before the band were able to get together and record. Bassist Herman Bandela amicably departed the band during the writing sessions so bass duties were performed on the album by guest Matt Freeman (of Rancid fame). Hell Fire see Reckoning as the album they’ve always wanted to make and the quality and ambition is there. The traditional metal elements dominate on the album with songs such as It Ends Tonight and the title track being fist-pumping, galloping blasts of trad metal glory. 

The thrash side of the band rears its head in songs such as the frantic Addicted To Violence and Nowhere Fast is pure speed metal worship but you also have songs such as Tortuga Nights and Eye For An Eye which balance the thrash and trad metal elements in perfect unison. The weak link is an unnecessary ballad in the form of A Dying Moon though it is mercifully short. Hell Fire are a new band to this reviewers ears and Reckoning has definitely impressed me. I love traditional heavy metal and old school thrash so the marrying of the two can only be a good thing to me. The band are also fantastically skilled musicians with some fantastic guitar work throughout. The vocals from Jake Nunn aren’t the strongest but they really work with this music switching between a gruffer thrash style and a more melodic trad metal style. If you worship the metal of the old school then Reckoning is definitely an album that you should be spinning. 8/10

Warwolf - Necropolis (Metalapolis) [Matt Bladen]
Heavy metal with NWOBHM influences, well I say NWOBHM, I actually mean Iron Maiden, take a track such as Nosferatu which has that late 90's/early 2000's sound of Maiden where they got a bit heavier, however there's the speed/classic metal style on Dawn Of Destiny

The band are based in Cologne and the members have been a part of Wolfen so they have carried over the Lycan imagery but merge it with almost a pastiche of the Irons as Witches & Demons steals the verses from Evil That Men Do shamelessly, making for an album that basically is all Iron Maiden riffs recycled but with vocals similar to those of Chris Boltethal of Grace Digger who produced the record and shares the love of the British metal institution. 

While it's listenable, Necropolis is just that...listenable it breaks no new ground and doesn't do Maiden worship as well as a band such as The Stray Gods. 6/10

Circle Creek - The World Is On Fire (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records/NRT Records) [Matt Bladen]

Returning after 4 years Austrians Circle Creek return with more heavy stoner rock which also has the sardonic style of grunge as well. The opening duo of the riff filled D.R.U.G.S and the choppy Tell Me Baby give you your first glimpse of the maturity and experience Circle Creek has and seeing as they have been around since 1983 but reformed properly in 2012 and have since been re-establishing themselves as a live and recording act. 

In My Universe is a bit more QOTSA in its style while Preppers is a fuzzy track taking shots at the those that stock up for nuclear war obsessively, these sarcastic lyrics are a major part of the Circle Creek sound but they do know when to get serious on Forever, too often highlighting a darker side as they crank out the driving riffs, but also giving a bit of quiet/loud to the psychy Journey. Brothers Christian and Didier Zirkelbach sharing the guitar duties as Wolfgang Huber (bass) and Bernhard Wolf (drums) give the powerful engine room to The World Is On Fire

Having been around for a while they have a swagger of a well versed act with a clear handle on their sound they switch between punk and psych with On My Own having both. The World On Fire reminds me a lot of Swedish heavies Mustach which is a good thing. Crank it up as Circle Creek bring a well worn but well done style. 7/10

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